Yoga asana can be a great antidote to the world of pressure, performance and comparison that most of us live in. Your mat can be a place of refuge where you come to tune in, slow down and connect with you.
On the other hand, if you are accustomed to pushing yourself in your daily life, it can be really easy to bring that habit with you to the mat. I believe that there is certainly a time and a place for testing your boundaries and pushing your body a little in asana, but I also think that most of us could use a little space to pull back, rest and observe.
Here are my top five reasons why holding back during your asana practice (where you are usually tempted to push yourself) may benefit you.
1. You Will Have An Easier Time Connecting To Your Breath
When you are in class, you most likely hear the teacher tell you to pay attention to your breathing about a million times. This is obviously an amazing thing to suggest, as it is really the primary focus of the asana practice (because it helps usher you into a meditative state). However, most of us are so caught up in doing our asanas correctly that breath becomes an afterthought.
Allow your mind to linger on your inhales and exhales for a while, instead of concentrating so hard on holding a perfect handstand and witness the magic that comes with breath awareness for yourself. Here is a little hint: you may actually find that asana and doing postures become easier when you are focused on your breathing, rather than on the pose itself.
2. You Will Free Yourself From Comparison
I don’t know about you, but when I am pushing myself in my practice, it is generally because I am trying to do my asana as well as someone next to me in class, as well as someone I have seen on the internet or better than myself in my last practice. I am comparing and competing.
This constant temptation to compete with others and with ourselves is one of the driving forces behind pushing our bodies in asana. If you are able to hold back in a posture or two, your desire for competition and comparison diminishes - because you stop giving it power. The less you act upon an impulse, the duller that impulse will become.
3. You Will See the World Does Not Fall Apart
We live in a high pressure, high stakes world where performance is often at the forefront. The simple fact of the matter is that you most likely have a job, a degree you are working towards, or a group of friends that is/are competitive by nature. Our society teaches us that being better than others, being the best is not only desirable but sometimes totally necessary for success.
If you find that you want to do every “advanced” version of a posture offered in every class, if you are always taking the extra Vinyasa, or adding in your own more challenging postures to the routines being done by the class, you may have an underlying belief that “more is better.”
I’m not saying that you should never push yourself in any of the above mentioned cases. Challenge is an ingrained part of the asana practice and the fire of tapas is very important. But keep in mind too that sometimes the quest for improvement can be doing more damage than good.
Give yourself an opportunity to see that the world will still turn, whether you push yourself or not. This may help you find more joy in your practice, and may even help you to let go of the pressure to perform out in the real world after class as well.
4. You Will Avoid Possible Injury
I have personally witnessed others and myself getting hurt during practice simply because we chose to ignore the signals from our bodies that we were not ready for that movement or posture. Holding back, especially when attempting new postures, or on days when you are not felling 100%, can actually be one of the best ways to prevent getting injured. It is way better to be safe, to check in and miss out on a particular posture offering and just catch it the next time, rather than throw yourself into something and then have to deal with hurting yourself.
5. You Will Create An Environment Within Yourself That Allows For Rest
Asana practice is an awesome area to cultivate habits and skills that you wish to have in your life off the mat. When you give yourself the space and time to rest, to hold back, to not push in asana practice every once in a while, you may find that you naturally start to allow these qualities to exist in your day to day life.
This can help you feel more relaxed, more at peace, and more tranquil in and amongst the craziness that is life. If you find it hard to let yourself rest and recover, try holding back for just one posture every time you practice yoga. You may be amazed at the transformation that takes place!
Do you ever hold back in asana? Do you find it challenging to do so?